Big Dairy, Vilsack urge Trump to bring up costly milk policies with Canada

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Big Dairy — including former U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack — is calling on President Donald Trump to review Canada’s milk pricing policies.

Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack talks to the media on Sept. 10, 2015. Vilsack now serves as president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council.

Photo by Darrell Hoemann/Big Ag Watch

Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack talks to the media on Sept. 10, 2015. Vilsack now serves as president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council.

The Dairy Export Council, National Milk Producers Federation, International Dairy Foods Association and National Association of State Departments of Agriculture on Monday urged Trump to discuss Canada’s “protectionist” policies that have reportedly cost U.S. companies millions of dollars during his scheduled meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“American dairy producers and processors want a fair and level trade relationship, and have deep concerns about proposed changes to the Canadian supply-side management system, which are designed, in part, to discourage U.S. exports,” said Vilsack, who is now president and chief executive officer of the Dairy Export Council.

A 2016 Ontario initiative that favors domestic milk over imported American milk has cost U.S. companies more than $150 million, according to industry estimates.

In a letter, the four dairy interests said that they view the milk pricing issue as one of the most sensitive and urgent topics complicating the relationship between Canada and the United States.

Sales of U.S. dairy milk decreased by about 7 percent in 2015 and are projected to drop another 11 percent through 2020, according to marketing agency Mintel.

In addition to Canada’s pricing policy, U.S. milk sales have been hurt by changing consumer preferences. While milk sales have dropped, sales for plant-based alternatives such as soy or almond milk have increased.

Monday’s call for help comes days after more than a dozen dairy companies — including Land O’Lakes Inc. and California Dairies Inc. voiced their complaints to ­­­­several U.S. governors.

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